As we settle into the warm temperatures and sunny skies of Spring, patio restaurants everywhere will be teeming with people celebrating the weekend and diving headfirst into giant plates of brunch food. Brunch is fun (who doesn’t love a chance to enjoy a leisurely meal with great company and beautiful weather?), but we don’t need to throw in the towel on our health just because we’re wrapping breakfast and lunch into one sitting.
Here are my top 7 tips to navigate brunch healthily:
- Survey your options first. Studies show that at buffets, those who take time to walk through the line and survey options first choose healthier plates overall. The same goes for those who look through the menu seeking healthy options, rather than automatically choosing what they regularly enjoy at a given restaurant. Seeing all of the options helps you prioritize where you really want to splurge, rather than piling on anything that looks good, regardless of the lack of space remaining on a food-filled plate.
- Put your salad on your regular plate. If we’re trying to eat healthily, it doesn’t make sense to put our salad, vegetables, and fruit on a smaller side plate, and fill our dinner plate with all of the less-healthy items from the buffet line, but that is what we commonly do! I choose to forgo etiquette (!) and prioritize health by putting the salad on my main plate along with everything else. I save the salad plate for treat items for which I want to control my portions, because serving sizes of single food items on a white plate are more obvious. Or, I may forgo this plate all together.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables. Given that brunch items tend to be calorie-dense (and nutrient-poor), I load up on salad and any other vegetables available, aiming for that to fill half my plate. If I am ordering off of a menu, I’ll order double sides of vegetables (rather than a vegetable and a starch or grain), so they will fill approximately half of the plate. The other half should have a good source of protein (generally a lean meat, egg whites, or beans), as well as a good source of healthy fat (olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, olive oil, or fish are good options).
- Follow the BDD Rule to choose your indulgences. On a regular day, I will choose only one option between bread (including sandwich bread, rolls, pasta, or anything bread-ed), drink (including alcohol, soda, or anything sweetened), and dessert. On a special occasion, I will choose two, and on a once-a-year holiday, I may choose three. Being intentional about where to splurge helps keep my overall meal balanced.
- Drink water! Not only does being hydrated have plenty of health benefits, but it will also help you feel fuller and not overindulge. And with an already heavier-than-normal meal, a soda or juice adds unnecessary calories and sugar. If you choose to drink alcohol, stick to one lower-sugar beverage, and alternate any subsequent drinks with water.
- Take a break before seconds or dessert. Believe it or not, brunch is not an all-you-can-eat competition. Eating until you are satisfied and your body is nourished is great; eating until you are uncomfortable stuffed and need a nap is not. Pausing for 10 minutes before returning to the buffet for seconds or following your meal with dessert can help you heed your body’s true hunger signals.
- Enjoy the experience! Rather than feeling deprived about anything you choose not to have (“that third donut just looks so good!”), celebrate the fact that you are making choices that best support your health, and focus on the experience of having brunch, the great company, and the beautiful weather or setting. A month or a year from now, you’ll remember the great conversations far more than you remember whether or not you served yourself seconds at the buffet.
If you’ll be enjoying Easter brunch this weekend, now is the perfect time to try out some of these tips! Enjoy your healthy brunch!